Boston Marathon bombing trial: Nun called to Tsarnaev's defence
The judge overseeing the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev says closing arguments will be held Wednesday.
Judge George O’Toole dismissed the jury after both the defence and prosecution rested their cases. The judge says jurors will be off Tuesday and will return Wednesday.
He said jurors can expect to begin deliberations after hearing closing arguments and instructions from him. The jury has already found Tsarnaev guilty of all 30 charges against him. Seventeen of those charges carry a possible death sentence.
Jurors will soon be tasked without deciding whether Tsarnaev should spend the rest of his life behind bars for the 2013 attacks or be sentenced to death.
All 12 jurors must be in agreement on a death sentence. Otherwise, Tsarnaev would get a life sentence.
Earlier, death penalty opponent Sr Helen Prejean testified that Tsarnaev expressed genuine sorrow about the victims of the bombing.
“No one deserves to suffer like they did,” Sr Prejean quoted him as saying.
Sr Prejean, a Roman Catholic nun whose story was told in the 1995 movie Dead Man Walking starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, met with Tsarnaev five times since March at the request of the defence.
She said she could hear “pain” in his voice when he said he regretted what happened to the victims in the 2013 attack, which left three people dead and more than 260 wounded, including 17 who lost limbs.
“I had every reason to think that he was taking it in and that he was genuinely sorry for what he did,” Sr Prejean testified as the final witness for the defence in the penalty phase of the case.
Prosecutors had fought to keep Sr Prejean off the witness stand, but the judge allowed her to testify. During cross-examination by prosecutor William Weinreb, Sr Prejean acknowledged that she is considered one of the leading death penalty opponents in the country and that she believes no one deserves to be executed, no matter what the crime.
The defence team called more than 40 witnesses during the penalty phase in hope of convincing the jury that Tsarnaev was a “good kid” who fell under the influence of his radical older brother, Tamerlan. Tamerlan, 26, died in a getaway attempt days after the bombing.
Dzhokhar’s teachers recalled a sweet, hard-working boy, while his Russian family members wept as they described a kind and gentle child who cried during The Lion King.
A psychiatrist said Tsarnaev’s father struggled with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, while others described a mother who became obsessed with religion.
After Tsarnaev’s lawyers rested their case, prosecutors called rebuttal witnesses, includng the warden of the federal penitentiary where he is likely to be sent if he is sentenced to life.
John Oliver, warden of the prison complex in Florence, Colorado, said inmates in the special security unit of the Supermax prison there can earn a college degree, write a book and send and receive an unlimited number of letters.
Oliver went through a list of privileges would have, including 30 minutes of phone calls per month and a minimum of 10 hours of recreation per week.
The testimony was aimed at countering efforts by Tsarnaev’s lawyers to assure the jury that his life behind bars would be harsh if he were spared execution.